Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

Arts Education

Play is Serious Work

by Lisa A Kramer
"I always think that focusing on fun is being lazy."

The woman who typed these words had just asked a question about how to get motivated in the face of debilitating physical challenges that are affecting her work and her ability to produce. The expert leading this workshop responded that sometimes we simply need to focus on joy and having fun--especially when faced with so many obstacles.

Yet, this woman--dealing with more challenges than many of us--struggles with an issue that has been ingrained into the American psyche, to the detriment of us all. The idea that play or fun has nothing to do with work.

We've been taught that somehow playing is childish and a waste of time. Imaginative play...

Tales of a Theatre Director/Educator

by Lisa A Kramer
I am sitting in my Introduction to Theatre classroom, showing the movie "Show Business: Road to Broadway." The picture is a little warped, as I can't use the regular video screen/projector, but instead I have it projecting on a swash of silky fabric that is intended to be a shadow screen for the play I am directing which opens next week.

Part of my set lies hidden in the darkness behind the screen  . . . much of which still waits (im)patiently to come to life with many coats of paint. I am trying to ignore the lurking bareness which haunts me even though I cannot see it. I try not to worry about how or if everything will get done.

As I...

Life as a Renaissance Woman

by Lisa A Kramer
I sat at a table filled with my first year studies seminar students in the POD (our campus' main dining hall) and we just talked. The original plan was that we would hold part of our class in there, but I realized that many of these students needed time to talk about other life issues--how to make friends, find jobs, juggle schedules, etc. Since this class meets for 2 1/2 hours on Fridays, and is intended to be a combination of academic learning and learning how to succeed in college--I had no qualms about adjusting my schedule for more casual discussion.

I spent the time bouncing around the table, trying to check in specifically with the students who don't speak up much in...

Dear Students: The Power of Learning Even When You Disagree

by Lisa A Kramer
Giving instructions at a theatre workshop

Dear Students (Parents, Administrators, and People in General),

I have been an educator for a long time now.  I have taught in all kinds of classrooms, to people of all ages.  I have taught many subjects and in many different styles of teaching. I have taught formally on college  campuses, and informally in after school programs or workshops. I have taught theatre, writing, ESL, honors, research, education and even Hebrew School. I think that I grew up teaching, and have never stopped.

I love teaching in many ways. I am always inspired by those moments when someone's eyes are opened to new  ideas. I relish polite debate. I thrive on helping students overcome...

The Arts: My Weapon of Choice

by Lisa A Kramer
Today is Arts Matter Day, a campaign developed by MassCreative to advocate for the importance and the value of the arts, and to encourage people to consider the arts when they vote.

I know, there are lots of issues to consider when it comes to voting, and perhaps support of the arts seems low on the list when you compare it to things like climate change, equality, the economy, ISIS, ebola etc. etc. etc. However, to me the arts are as valuable as the sciences (although in a different way) toward solving the problems in the world.

The arts have power--to make people think, to give people hope, to encourage and promote change. I, personally, could not live in a world without access to the...

Learning Literary and Life Lessons #NESCBWI14

by Lisa A Kramer
"Because I wasn't mad I saw something beautiful. I saw a color I had never seen before." (Peter Reynolds) In his keynote address at the NESCBWI conference yesterday, Peter Reynolds--award-winning author and illustrator of North Star, The Dot,  and Ish--shared his philosophies on writing, life, art and the way he creates. The above quote comes from a story he told about his (then) young daughter pouring water over his entire paint set thereby creating a color he could not describe. That color, eventually, made its way into his book, The Dot . His talk resonated with me on so many levels. From his idea that there are "two kinds of adults in the world"--adult adults and child adults--to his attitude that he is "a gentle rebel. Rules are...

The Power of the Arts

by Lisa A Kramer
I have been silent for several weeks.

I suppose you could argue that I had writer's block, but it's more than that. I have grown tired of the words that seem to flood our existence, but change nothing as people hold stubbornly to their belief systems unwilling to hear or read the logic in an argument. I no longer felt the desire to contribute to the cacophony, because it seemed like even the most eloquent and truthful words get lost in the mire of meanness that seems to flood the internet wherever you look.

However, today I read an article that makes me want to climb up on my soapbox again, and shout words until somebody listens. The Washington Post published an...

Publicize, Publicize, Publicize

by Lisa A Kramer
We all know that doing good work isn't enough nowadays. Sometimes, it seems that quality doesn't matter at all (see my post called "A Best Selling Author? Really?!!")

The unfortunate truth is that in order to achieve anything we need to get our work noticed, and the only way to do that is to spend more time getting it out there, which of course means less time creating and perfecting our work. It's a vicious cycle.

You would think that social  media might make it easier, but it doesn't really. The truth is, the more inundated I am with advertisements or announcements the more they just become visual background noise to the stuff that I'm really interested in hearing, seeing, or reading.


Clear Writing Counts

by Lisa A Kramer

We can't all be brilliant writers. Just as we can't all be brilliant mathematicians, painters, doctors, musicians, scientists, speakers, etc., etc.

I get that. The line between basic skills and true talent is a thick one--one which requires training, practice, more training, more practice, a lot of hard work (and perhaps a bit of innate talent).

I'd like to think that--even in a flawed educational system like ours--most people learn somewhere along the way to communicate in basic sentences, and to be able to write those sentences down. I like chocolate. I wish I had a million dollars. I like to write. Not brilliant sentences by any means, but they communicate the point to some extent.

Of course, as people move through the education system, as well...

The Truth About the Arts: Art is Activism

by Lisa A Kramer
The other day I got an e-mail from a student in one of my upcoming Introduction to Theatre classes questioning my choice of text because, in his opinion, the first two chapters spoke heavily about theatre for political activism, and he did not want to take a class that focused on Political Theatre.

Maybe I should make my class read Cloud 9, which is about sexual politics and blow his mind.

In typical fashion, his comments first through me into a funk of self-doubt. Did I make a mistake when selecting this book (which is a new text for me because I was going to go insane if I stuck with the same old same old)? Was I...

Regarding Art, Beauty, Love, and Self-Expression

by Lisa A Kramer
"Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." Thomas Merton I most doubt myself as a writer when I read those writer's who somehow dip into a creative world that seems beyond my ability. They use language like a paint brush, creating entire worlds with rich vivid colors. Or they create a symphony with words, where you can hear the songs of their characters and their worlds even in the silence of your reading mind.

The writer's who make me doubt myself do a masterful dance on the border between reality and the world just beyond reality. This doesn't mean they are all fantasy writers, but they have found a way to see into the world of possibility...

Those Who Can't . . .

by Lisa A Kramer
Don't say it. The end of that phrase is not "teach."

I would argue those who can't . . . drive people who can insane.

I'm talking about people with BIG ideas who have no clue about the minutiae, the details, and the realities behind achieving those ideas. I'm talking about the people who make every success look like their own, and yet never recognize the work that needs to be done to get there. They dream, and imagine some magical little entities come out each night and do the work that needs to be done.

In some ways they are right, because the "people who can" do the work that needs to be done, while those who can't sit in their own...